Craig Detweiler, iGods: How Technology shapes our Spiritual and Social Lives (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2013), 246 pages. Endnotes and an index.
This is an enlightening book. A substantial part of the book is an overview of the rise of computer giants in the internet age. But as the history of these organizations (Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and a few others) are discussed, the author delves into the social and theological implications of this shift in technology. Detweiler does not condemn the rapid advance in technology nor does he just focus on the negative side of the internet. He celebrates the positive impact of much of this technology and how it helps us handle the vast amount of information available. He reminds us that God was the first technological genius when, at creation, he brought order into the chaos (something the Google does with every search). Using a Greek word study of tekton (the word translated as carpenter in the New Testament), Detweiler reminds us that Jesus was essentially involved in the technology of his age. We’re not to be afraid of technology. Yet, at the same time, he feels a need to put the “iGods” in their proper place. He reminds his readers of their purpose and limitations. Although we have a tendency to place “blind trust” in technology, we must remember that our trust and faith belong to another realm.
Detweiler, in digging into the human call in Genesis to “cultivate,” reminds us of our need to organize. Our use of technology is linked to our calling by God. But we have to be careful. Thanks to the iPhone, as one of Detweiler’s sources points out, “we have evolved from a culture of instant gratification to one of constant gratification.” Today, we’re “tempted to relate to the iPhone rather than the world.” (65) Have we replaced God with Google’s algorithms? Will “I’ll google it” replace “I’ll pray about it”? (117) Can we really trust Google when our own search history leads to “confirmation bias” and our self-selecting of friends on Facebook supports our own ideas about the world. In this manner, instead of this technology leading to a more open society, we feed our own biases. Although there is a “democracy” to Facebook (freedom to like comments), it also results in targeted marketing. In the end, social media supports the “hyper-partisanship in Washington” and can lead to our own “faith bubbles.”. (122-3)
The “Google Doctrine” may be changing the world, but it’s not as free as one might think. Although social media has helped spur revolution and the downfall of brutal dictators, such brutes have caught on. Misinformation is a problem. A study of the 2011 protests in Russia found that half the tweets sent out were by “bots” used by the government to counter the protests. (193). While Twitter is often condemned for being too short to have said anything meaningful, Detweiler reminds us that in a world where we are drowning in information, there is something refreshing about reducing ideas to their simple base (“an electronic haiku”). Humorously, he links Twitter to the book of Proverbs in the Bible, which he refers to as the “original Twitterverse” (184)
Detweiler reminds his readers of our need for “Sabbaths.” We need to step away from social media as a way to remind ourselves what is important. Although the “iGods” taunt us with faster speeds, we should remember that the Bible lifts up the virtue of patience. We should “celebrate technology as a gift, but resist the temptation to prostrate ourselves before it.” (225)
Although some will find this book deep, it is well-written and should be read by anyone wanting to understand the implications of this new technological world. Detweiler quotes theologians, sociologists, historians, and philosophers. However, the reading is not easy. I am sure many, especially those who may not be comfortable in the many disciplines from which he draws, may find the way Detweiler shifts from one paragraph to the next from a discussion of technology to theological to issues of faith or social importance a bit confusing.
Thank you for the Cliff notes version of this interesting concept.ReplyDelete
I've lived without a smartphone and will continue to do so, just for those Sabbath moments. When I leave my house, I'm disconnected, whether it's just for 15 minutes or a week of vacation. I highly recommend it!ReplyDelete
Well you had me at the first few lines, feeding on positive impacts is always enlightening, and his choice of topic seems to be running through many of our minds. I believe this is a worthy book to explore. Thank you for sharing it with us.ReplyDelete
You've certainly piqued my curiosity about this book. Of course I could just download it to my Kindle via my laptop or smartphone, but I'd rather pick up a "real" copy instead - part of that "stepping away from technology".ReplyDelete
I like the Twitter/Proverbs analogy.
This isn't really my type of read, but it does sound interesting. With all of the social media I'm on and the marketing I do, I have learned a lot about these iGods. Asking if we have replaced God with the Internet is an interesting concept.ReplyDelete
Very interesting to compare God to Google. And it's perfect. We always hear such negative things about technology and how it's ruining our lives. I look forward to reading how it's affecting us in a positive way. Thanks!ReplyDelete
we are living in the disinformation ageReplyDelete
Every day I look forward to my "log-off" time. The iWorld has its advantages but I just cannot wait to get outside ad listen to the birds and smell the ocean.ReplyDelete
Sounds like an interesting book. Good to be reminded that although social media etc have positive sides we need not to allow them to take over our lives....ReplyDelete
Sounds like a fascinating book on social media from a new and different perspective. Thanks for the review!ReplyDelete
This looks to be a compelling book. I'm not particularly knowledgeable when it comes to electronics and would benefit from reading this.ReplyDelete
This is such an important discussion. As you say, through the magic of social media we are simultaneously better connected and more isolated than ever before in human history. There's no turning back at this point either.ReplyDelete
We are drowning in information alright, friend Sage ... but it's up to us to turn on/off the tv and the computer ... ya ... Love, cat.ReplyDelete
I worry a bit about such balancing. It can become a DaVinci Code relationship to history very quickly indeed. Still it might be fun.ReplyDelete
Love this quote: 'We should “celebrate technology as a gift, but resist the temptation to prostrate ourselves before it.” (225)'ReplyDelete
I like and agree with the notion that we've gone from instant to constant gratification. And I've become less and less patient. This isn't good.ReplyDelete
Thank you for spotlighting this interesting perspective, Sage.
I would not have thought that technology would inspire a theological study. Interesting perspective.ReplyDelete
This is so inspiring! I love the post:)ReplyDelete
Very interesting! I hadn't really thought about technology in terms of theology, but it makes sense. Great food for thought!ReplyDelete
An interesting book. I think I'm getting old because when I look at my grandson, I almost feel bad that he'll never know what it's like not to be attached to so much technology. Parents get their kids phones and computers by the time they're 8 years old most times. When I was 8, I was in the back yard digging holes in the yard with my dog, driving my dad crazy.ReplyDelete
I appreciate your review, and I'm sure many would find this book an interesting read.ReplyDelete
All the best Jan
This sounds like a very interesting read although it might be a little deep for me. Technology has seemed to take over our lives and changed the way we do everything since I was a kid.ReplyDelete
Can we really trust Google when our own search history leads to “confirmation bias” and our self-selecting of friends...ReplyDelete
Both side of the American political spectrum are guilty of this practice. To the best of my knowledge, I seem to remember the extreme polarization of our political system beginning before the emergence of social media, but it definitely has made it worse. Which brings the concern of whether democracy can survive when no one wants to compromise.
I think my husband would like this book. Thanks for posting. I don't have a smart phone and I don't really want one. But when my kids go off to college, it sure would be nice to send and receive texts. When I went to college, my mom would call me on Sunday nights only. This gave me independence, but I also felt that home and family were so far away.ReplyDelete
“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”ReplyDelete
Some may argue that this quote only relates to the monotony of life. I think it applies fairly well to what the author (of the book) is saying.
An excellent review, Sage, and one that makes me want to read the book. Based on your review, it discusses a lot of things I've been mulling over. I'll have to add it to my wish list on Amazon for down the road because I've already blown my book budget for the next couple of months! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book!ReplyDelete
A very informative and well written review, Sage. Based on what you've said "iGods" discusses a number of things I've been mulling over. I had to add the title to my wish list at Amazon though. No instant or constant book gratification because I've blown my book budget big time! Thanks for making me aware of this book. Take care!ReplyDelete